Opinion

Time for Washington to Step up on Infrastructure

The recent agreement between Congressional Democrats and the White House on updating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was historic, and gives hope to all those Americans who want our leaders in Washington to rise above politics. Both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump set aside their differences to do the right thing for the American worker.

Despite the intense partisanship that permeates Washington, this may open the door to other common sense and bipartisan solutions.

One of the issues that the president focused on during his campaign in 2016 was the dire need for infrastructure reform in this country. As a New Hampshire State Representative, I was the first elected official in America to endorse Trump. His straight shooting on the crumbling of our roads, bridges and airports was refreshing to those of us outside the beltway that see this issue every day.

How can we make America great again if the building blocks of our economy are crumbling? President Trump was willing to call out both Republicans and Democrats on this issue because both sides in Washington have failed to get it done.  

When discussing infrastructure, most people think of roads, tunnels, dams, bridges and the electrical grid, which are all very important. But we must also remember that physical infrastructure we all see on our commutes or travel is not the whole story. We must prioritize technological upgrades to our infrastructure through upgrades like next generation air traffic control through the Federal Aviation Administration.

Air traffic control is more important than ever, with commercial flights increasing and the stark rise in drone use, which are regulated by the FAA. Drones are already used recreationally and for a variety of industries, but will soon be used to deliver packages from Amazon and UPS, medical equipment or drugs from CVS and possibly even your pizza from Domino’s.

This is particularly important in rural states like New Hampshire. After all, if drones can deliver goods when country roads are impassable due to snow, this would be a huge improvement for many people in our state.

According to its most recent Aerospace Forecast, the FAA believes that the market for commercial drones could triple between now and 2023, which is much faster than anticipated.

One obvious concern about the prevalence of drones in our airspace is the possibility of a collision between a UAV and an aircraft. An additional safety concern that ties in with another of the president’s priorities is that drones could be used to spy on Americans, another 21st century reality we must face.

Modernizing our airspace will also cut down on the countless and terrible delays that have made air travel in the United States increasingly unpleasant. A recent report stated that airline delays at 25 major airports cost Americans $3.8 billion in lost time. Anyone who has ever been to Boston Logan in a snowstorm knows what I am talking about. 

In my opinion, the greatest roadblock to investment in American infrastructure has been a Congress unwilling to work with White House on this matter. Both parties are foolish to think this way. Incumbents in Congress — Republicans and Democrats — have to answer to voters who expect them to get things done, including rebuilding our nation’s critical infrastructure.

Thankfully, the president has shown leadership on the issue of protecting our airspace, and nearly a year ago announced new regulations for drone usage, including at night. I hope Congress will reciprocate and work with the White House to rebuild America, keeping our economy strong and the envy of the world.

 

Stephen Stepanek is the chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, a former five-term state representative and the first elected official in America to endorse Donald Trump for president.

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